Jan & Feb Egg Count

As a Chicken Tender, I raise some of the happiest chickens on the planet.
And as an analytical data tender, I like to track how many eggs have been laid and by whom.

People ask me how many eggs I collect in a week, and I’m a nut about calculating costs too. So I will share monthly updates on how many eggs were gathered and the average cost per dozen. Figuring out these numbers is satisfying. It’ll be interesting to see how the egg count and cost per dozen changes as we approach June where the longer daylight results in more egg laying, and then tapers down as we approach winter solstice.

I currently raise 6 layer hens. They eat organic chicken feed and garden greens, range freely, and slurp up tasty worms like noodles.

Here’s our monthly Egg Count for January and February 2023:

Month (2023)Laying HensEggs per Day (avg)Eggs per WeekDozens per WeekEggs per MonthDozens per MonthFeed CostCost per Dozen
Jan62.719.41.6836.9$ 30.00$ 4.30
Feb63.827.72.31078.9$ 30.00$ 3.33


– Two of the reinas (2+ year old hens) resumed laying when they finished their winter molt (feather shedding and regrowth) in late Jan and early Feb. This increased the Feb egg count.
– The three bebitas (1 year old hens) laid daily last summer, but this tapered down to a rate of 0.8 per hen (or 4 eggs every 5 days) in January. This is to be expected due to short daylight.


Uber Frugal Month Goals

Next month, I’m going to partake in the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month. Step 1 is to establish your goals. I’m going to do that here.

  1. Why are you participating in this Challenge?

    I want to learn new ways to be frugal. I want to curb the tug of consumerism, materialism, and shopping which is a vacuous hobby that delivers fleeting bliss. I want to be surrounded by others who are like-minded and feel encouraged and supported by them. I want to learn ways to save money and dedicate it towards what is most meaningful to me. I want to become more attuned and aware of my spending and saving habits and my relationship with money. I want to develop a healthy, peaceful, and happier relationship with money, personal finances, and finances with my family.

  2. What do you hope to achieve?

    I hope to achieve a better understanding of my saving and spending habits so that I understand how much realistically I spend in a month/year. This will give me a sense of how much money I’ll need to live when I retire (early), happily veering off this rat race and living a sustainable, fulfilling, self-sufficient life on a small farm or homestead.

    I also hope to achieve a better relationship with money. It becomes a strained topic when I bring it up with my partner. I want to ask my parents about how they manage their money, but I freeze up and haven’t asked them. I want to grow comfortable talking about money with my partner, my parents, my family and friends without it resulting in hurled insults or harsh feelings.

  3. What are your longterm life goals?

    Where do you want to be in 5 years?
    In 10 years?

    This is the first time I am penning this publicly.
    I want to achieve FIRE (Financially Independent, Retire Early).

    I want to have the option of not working for a company (full time office-work) and that if I choose to, it’s because I enjoy it, not begrudgingly because I need the paycheck.

    I want to have this option while I feel the fire and joy of keeping a productive homestead, which means the sooner, the better.

    Something in me dies when I imagine slaving away in the rat race for another 5 years. (That something is a putrefied rat corpse). I’d like to exit the rat race in 5 years, but it might be more like 10 years (when I’m about 40). I’m pretty confident I can achieve FIRE by age 50. No matter how many years it is, you damn well better bet that I’ll be enjoying the journey. I may have an office job by day but I am also tending the happiest chickens on earth, growing nutritious fruits and veggies, making mulch and vermicompost, building wooden coop structures, and more. No one can tell me a work meeting is more important than these things. My own conviction is firm.

    I want to graduate from Chicken Tender and try other forms of animal husbandry. Raising hens from chick-stage. Raising quail. Raising 2+ kunekune pigs. Possibly pasture-raising and butchering meat-chickens.

    I want to get good at growing my own crops and making good, homemade food so that I do not need to rely on going to a store. It’s late December and I am enjoying frozen cherry tomatoes and canned tomato sauce from my September harvest. I hope to grow and process enough tomatoes each year that I don’t need to buy them from a store (this post’s photo is from a batch of canning tomatoes). Same goes with strawberries, lettuce and mustard greens. There will be more crops I get good at growing and preserving. Even with chicken eggs, I have not had to buy any all year, and I enjoy a 2-egg skillet breakfast most mornings.

    In 5 years, I want to be on my way towards having a 2nd type of animal (my working companions).
    I want to be self-sufficient in tomatoes, berries, and leafy greens.
    I want to have savings towards a possible small farm or rental property.
    I want to be frugal and save money smartly while still enjoying life, without guilt from either.

    In 10 years, I want to be debt-free. I’ll have paid off my house or be on the way.
    I want to be a small farmer, sharing my organic, flavorful eggs and produce with customers.
    It’s possible I may still be working – if so, I want to be happy while at it.
    I will never stop learning. I want to always be learning – whether it’s a programming language, gardening strategy, animal husbandry, ice-skating, a new bike route, or frugal hack. Usually it’s multiple things like this at the same time, because my life is multi-faceted and I don’t hone into 1 sole obsession.

  4. What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from happening and what can you do about it?

    My mindset. I am practical, pessimistic, negative. There’s good and bad sides to this.
    Knowing me, my saving nature and practicality would have me financially ready for FIRE in some years. But I may not take the leap (ie leaving job, getting a pig) until I am very sure. And not taking the leap sooner means delaying happiness.

    Currently it’s difficult to talk about money and work things out with my partner. This makes me take on extra burden of paying a larger share of bills, which means less money saved for future pig-tender me. This needs to change, and I believe it gradually will.

    Another hindrance is my fear, timidness, cowardice to ask questions about money to my parents, who have been good financial role models for me. Time to start breaking the ice. Even writing about this on my blog is a form of breaking the ice.

    Unplanned spending is dangerous. Buying items not on the originally grocery shopping list is dangerous. Stick to the shopping list like Sara’s weekly $100 grocery shopping (from the Youtube Channel Matt & Sara). Be disciplined.

    Don’t go thrift shopping for fun without a specific, well-thought out need in mind. If the goal is to shop for fun, then have allocated dollars for just this.

    Finish the food I have. I buy or acquire more food in a week than I can consume. This has been one of the final and harder parts of minimalism for me. “Food minimalism”. This would make me spend less on food and waste less and enjoy more fridge and pantry space.


In Praise of Processed Food

The difference between serving tea made from herbs you grow yourself and herb tea from a bag “is like the difference between serving your guests a good vintage wine instead of some cheap plonk,” says Conrad Richter, president of Richters Herbs in Goodwood, Ont. “Herbal teas packed in bags are usually powdered,” he explains, so they’re “almost never as flavourful as whole herbs.”

from https://gardenmaking.com/grow-and-brew-herbal-tea/

I’ve been drying herbs for tea lately. It’s hard work. Plucking early, before the sun wilts the leaves, washing several times to remove bugs or hoping they won’t be noticeable if served to guests. Then drying them in a dehydrator, trial-and-error for what temperature and time to set. Then stripping the leaves or flower buds off from the stems, and scattering the fragrant stems in the chicken nest-box. Making a little jar of mint or lavender takes hours of processing. At one point I thought, “I hate this. I’m spending hours working with my hands for something that costs $1.99 at the store and I’m not sure if it’ll even taste good.” I used to not disagree with those who criticized processed food. But now I realized, processed food = professionally processed food. And if it doesn’t come processed (straight from the garden), then it will ultimately still be processed…by me, instead of professionals.

I suppose there’s some upside. When I process myself, I *know* that the herbs are organic and pure, that I shook off most of the bugs, and didn’t add anything unsavory. I enjoy the labor but will admit it is extraordinarily time-consuming and perhaps not cost effective. My hope that this was worthwhile is if it has better flavor that what’s offered at the store.

One morning I added a few pinches of lavender buds to my breakfast tea. It was full of flavor, a complex spiced kick! At least there’s promise that the food processing was worth it.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Yogurt

A snack I’ve been enjoying most afternoons:
– Plain Yogurt
– Strawberry-Rhubarb curd (garden ingredients & West Seattle honey), or any jam/compote
– Fresh strawberries
– Trader Joe’s Almond Butter Granola

Did you know Lebron James plans and schedules everything, from workouts to meals to naps to snacks? I find myself benefiting from snacking about the same time every day, around 3pm.

Salad with Sprouts & Lettuce

I’m going to document meals I’ve made that use a home-grown ingredient, and create a cookbook/recipe idea collection.

Here, I have a slice of pizza with a salad made with garden lettuce and mason-jar-germinated sprouts.

– Balsamic vinaigrette: 1:1 balsamic vinegar and olive oil, dried basil, touch of honey, shake in a jar
– Lettuce from the garden: Ruby red, tango (frilly green one), and mezclun blend
– Sprouts: alfalfa seeds germinated in a jar
– Pumpkin & sunflower seed topping
– Apple slices

Wok noodles with Little Flowering Kale Thing (Raab) and Black Garlic

I’m on a mission to identify what’s growing in the garden and enjoy cooking with it. There is kale starting to form flower buds, resembling thin broccoli florets. I discovered these flower buds are called “raab”. They are tender and significantly less bitter and fibrous than broccoli.

I harvested these stems (leaving the leaves) and tossed them with shiitake mushrooms, garlic, onions, soy sauce, sesame oil & seeds, protein and egg noodles to create this dish. I used diced bacon and think firm tofu would work well too. Use high heat for that wok hei! Serve with kimchi and black garlic. Enjoy!

On “raab” etymology:

“Turnips are the true “Broccoli Raab”, also called Broccoli Rabe, or Rapini. “Rape” is the Italian name for turnip, and broccoli means something like flowering thing (in Mike’s rustic Italian). Adding “ini” at the end implies that it is a small thing, so if we put it all together “rapini” is a little turnip thing, and broccoli rabe is a flowering turnip thing.”

from https://whistlingtrainfarm.com/rapini%E2%80%94its-all-in-the-name/

Rain Harvest

I’ve been working on a new project to collect rainwater. Call me crazy, but getting huge plastic tanks for this is a long-time dream come true. Here’s what I did:

  • Identify an appropriate spot for a 300-gallon IBC tote (a cube container with 3.5-feet long sides). It should be under a rain gutter downspout that gets good flow, and somewhat out of view to reduce the eyesore (ie do not block windows).
  • Obtain two IBC totes from Craigslist. Request delivery (these won’t fit in an SUV). Make sure they are food-grade/food-safe and did not formerly contain toxic chemicals. Water collected in these totes will be used to irrigate vegetable gardens and provide drinking water for chickens. Seller confirmed they are from a dishwashing business and are safe to use.
  • Clean the inside of an IBC tote (or ask seller to do so) with a pressure washer. Empty out the water. Make sure the spout works.
  • Obtain & use a T30 star driver bit to unscrew and remove the top two metal bars of the cage. DeWalt bits are good quality. T30 star bolts are standard on IBC totes. You can look for the letter “T” on the bolt to check.
T30 bolts on tote & T30 driver bit (largest 6-pointed star bit in most bit sets)
  • Remove plastic tote from the metal cage.
  • Set newspaper or cardboard under the plastic tote. Wear a mask to reduce inhalation of paint fumes. Paint the plastic tote so that it is opaque, which will inhibit algae growth. Look for lighter areas & thoroughly coat with paint until light doesn’t shine through. Using “Rustoleum Comfort Grip” or a similar product is optional but makes extended spray paint sessions significantly more comfortable for the hands.

    I used 3 spray paint cans of “Rustoleum 2x Satin Finish” in color Colonial Red to fully coat one tote, and the red color will make the tote blend in slightly with the red brick of the house. I also got the same spray paint in “Claret Wine” (a slightly darker, purpler tone) for the second tote. This one requires 5 cans to fully coat. Who knew some colors take more quantity to cover a surface than others.
  • Let the opaque painted tote cure and dry under a covered, sheltered area for 3-4 days. The longer the better.
  • Set up cinder blocks around the base of the IBC tote’s designated location. 6 blocks set edgewise (so holes are facing up, not the sides) sufficiently form the perimeter. The IBC tote spout is very low so raising it up on blocks will give height clearance to fill a jug and let water flow down hose by gravity better.
  • Insert plastic tote inside of tote cage. Set up tote on top of cinder blocks. Even with 2 people, the tote is heavy!
  • Cut wire mesh screen (the kind used for window screens) and place over the top opening of the tote. Cut a little bigger than needed. Secure with the ring-lid or bands. This screen is fine enough for most debris, and mosquitos cannot enter through the holes and lay eggs in the collected water. (The biggest enemy will be algae. An occasional pressure wash inside will help).
The screen would be better under the black cap, not temporarily secured with rubber bands which will get brittle from the summer sun. The black cap was too tight to unscrew for the time being.
  • Set up rain gutter downspout to flow into the tank through the screen. Pour a jug of water down the spout to test that the downspout is positioned well, secure, and water flows into the screen.
  • Set up an overflow system in case the tote fills up. For example, drill a ~1″ hole on the side, near the top, with a hose through this hole that goes out several feet away from the home and foundation.
  • The IBC spigot is very large and does not fit standard hoses. Set up a coupler and standard hose-size brass spigot.
  • Enjoy collecting and using rainwater! It’s better than city-treated water for watering plants because it has dissolved oxygen and is not treated with chemicals like chlorine and fluoride. This is better for the garden. Total cost including tools was about ~$336 and there are city rebates available. After the initial set up, it also means a free supply of water!
Rainbow after a downpour. Fort Knox Chicken Box in construction in the background.

Stop that mail!

Do you like getting mail advertisements? I do not. I seek to minimize the amount of time spent and paper wasted in the form of grocery flyers, Valpak coupons, and insurance or credit cards offers. That means stopping it from flowing in through the mail.

Here are a few free resources to stop receiving marketing mail in Seattle-area. I used these at my previous address and it considerably reduced ads mailed to me to almost zero. I’ll be using these again each time I move:

Say I receive a Macy’s catalogue for the previous resident, I look up the company’s customer service online contact form or email. I write that I do not wish to receive mail anymore to the address. It’s tedious, but it’s like combing lice – at first there’s a lot, but there’s less and less with each pass of the fine-toothed comb. It’s worth it.

Fort Knox Chicken Box

Last night I watched Life Below Zero, where subsistence fishers and hunters carve out life in Alaska. Just one episode makes my upcoming project of building an enclosed, walk-in chicken run and secured coop seem much less daunting than it did two days ago. This coop run in this video is my model. I call this project “Fort Knox Chicken Box”.

A pigeon-sized hawk attacked my littlest hen last week and severed her neck. I grieved, then resolved to secure the roofless chicken run. I’m chipping away at the daunting fear with the passage of time, research, watching run build videos, procuring tools, and exploring our premises to see what tools and scrap wood the previous resident left behind. I’m one shovel and YouTube video in. Measurement and wood to come. 50-foot hardware cloth roll and pneumatic staple gun on the way.

I noticed that people with an unenclosed, open-air (roofless) chicken run:
i) often have a dog trained to guard the chickens during the day from hawks, weasels, etc.
ii) accept a non-zero mortality rate of their flock. One book says 5% each year.

In the mean time, I am that guard dog, supervising the hens’ free ranging until it’s their bed time.

This is an ambitious project, but I want the hens to roam safely, and to learn construction along the way rather than getting on Carolina Coop’s 4-month-long wait list for someone else to do this.

Steps I will take:

  1. Measure desired perimeter of enclosed run. Divide border into about 6-8 sections. Mark corners with stones or upright sticks. Mark where door will be positioned.
  2. Measure each section length. These will determine the lengths needed for 2×4 horizontal beams to go about 3-feet up the side and around the top (to hold the roof).
  3. Set up string line around border, anchored beyond stone markers so they don’t interfere when digging holes at the markers. Use extra cotton twine on hand. (Optional: Use leveler to ensure string line is flat.)
  4. Obtain wooden posts. 4″x4″, about 7 feet tall. They will be buried 1 feet and make a 6 foot walk-in height.
    Obtain “quick mix” concrete and a large tray for mixing.
  5. Obtain or find 2×4″ wood pieces around the premises, and cut to correct length in step 2.
  6. Mark depth on wooden posts that they will be buried.
  7. Apply waterproof stain or primer + stain/paint to all wooden posts and side pieces.
  8. Dig holes where there are markers.
  9. Set posts into holes. Check that horizontal section length still matches step 2.
  10. Mix concrete in tub. Can use rake.
  11. Shovel/scoop concrete into holes. Line up posts against the string line.
  12. Check vertical alignment with a leveler.
  13. Use string line and visually check that they are aligned.
  14. Let the concrete dry and set according to instructions.
  15. Install horizontal wood mounts on the posts along top and middle. Mount on corner sides for the corner posts, and on opposite sides for the side posts.

Next steps will involve hardware cloth on the walls and along the floor, choosing roof type and installation, and the entry door. Stay tuned.

To cluck or not to cluck

I’ve been coding! Like the slow erosion of a river forming a canyon, I am steadily pecking away at Python to become a better programmer. Here is a lil project I did today. Why chickens? I’ll explain in a future post. Stay tuned! Bok bok bok!

# Magic 8 Ball - Ask a question, reveal an answer.

import random

name = "Heeju"

question = "Should I get hens this weekend?"

answer = ""
answer_2 = ""

# First question random answer generation
random_number = random.randint(1,10)

if random_number == 1:
  answer = "Yes - definitely."
elif random_number == 2:
  answer = "It is decidedly so."
elif random_number == 3:
  answer = "Without a doubt."
elif random_number == 4:
  answer = "Reply hazy, try again."
elif random_number == 5:
  answer = "Ask again later."
elif random_number == 6:
  answer = "Better not to tell you now."
elif random_number == 7:
  answer = "My sources say no."
elif random_number == 8:
  answer = "Outlook not so good."
elif random_number == 9:
  answer = "Very doubtful."
elif random_number == 10:
  answer = "Don't rush it. Give it some time."
  answer = "Error (number outside of range)"

# Second question random answer generation

random_number_2 = random.randint(1,9)
if random_number_2 == 1:
  answer_2 = "Yes - definitely."
elif random_number_2 == 2:
  answer_2 = "It is decidedly so."
elif random_number_2 == 3:
  answer_2 = "Without a doubt."
elif random_number_2 == 4:
  answer_2 = "Reply hazy, try again."
elif random_number_2 == 5:
  answer_2 = "Ask again later."
elif random_number_2 == 6:
  answer_2 = "Better not to tell you now."
elif random_number_2 == 7:
  answer_2 = "My sources say no."
elif random_number_2 == 8:
  answer_2 = "Outlook not so good."
elif random_number_2 == 9:
  answer_2 = "Very doubtful."
  answer_2 = "Error (number outside of range)"

if question == "":
  print("You didn't ask a question. Please ask one!")
elif name == "":
elif name != "":
  print(name,"asks:", question)
  print(name,"asks:", question)

print("Magic 8-ball's answer:", answer)

print("Is this truly random?", answer_2)

The great reveal: